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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Espionage > British TV > Callan – The Monochrome Years (1967 – 1969/Network U.K./PAL Region 2 DVD Import)

Callan – The Monochrome Years (1967 – 1969/Network U.K./PAL Region 2 DVD Import)

 

Picture: C     Sound: C     Extras: D     Episodes: B

 

 

PLEASE NOTE: This DVD set can only be operated on machines capable of playing back DVDs that can handle Region Two/2 PAL format software and can be ordered from our friends at Network U.K. at the website address provided at the end of the review.

 

 

Though color episodes of the classic hit TV spy series Callan with the late, great Edward Woodward have been in circulation since the show ended in the early 1970s, it turns out that not only have the early black and white shows been unavailable for over 40 years, but many were even lost or destroyed!  An awful thing to happen to a great show, Fremantle (who owns all the Associated British and Thames episodes of the show) recently found what was left and via Network U.K. have released Callan – The Monochrome Years on DVD and wow, what an amazing show it was, even in the beginning.

For those unfamiliar with the show, you can read about it in our coverage of Callan – Set One, which is the first color season and third season overall, as released in the U.S. at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/8724/Callan+%E2%80%93+Set+One+(1970

 

 

The concluding four and last season is also covered, though not the feature film which needs reissued.  In the meantime, here is more on the show and the 12 episodes that survived.

 

The series actually began as what turned out to be one of the most successful installments of the long-running U.K. anthology drama series Armchair Theater, which we have covered (along with spin-off Armchair Cinema and Armchair Thriller) on the site already.  A Magnum For Schneider was broadcast in 1967 and led to the immense success of the show.  Lasting about an hour, we learn about the on-the-edge and not always cooperative hitman/spy David Callan (Woodward) who is not always happy working with the S.I.S. department.  He reports to a series of men who take the role of Hunter (a code name; sometimes he does not even know the real identity of the person running the show) and goes out on whatever the next assignment is.

 

We join him dealing with the first Hunter (Ronald Radd) we meet, investigating a man (Joseph Furst) who may be selling deadly weapons to enemies of Britain via Japanese imports.  Because the unit has to stay away from the police and always be able to deny its existence, Callan wants to know all details all the time and SIS pushes him more than they should.  Fortunately for him, he can push back pretty good.

 

Another SIS hitman (the great Peter Bowles) is back-up if Callan fails, but thanks to Callan and his use of an exceptionally good thief named Lonely (the underrated Russell Hunter), Callan is able to get operations professionally done, even when he has to take on the SIS as much as the bad guys.  This hour-long installment led to a four-season show and is included with the other 11 episodes that survived, including:

 

1)     A Magnum For Schneider

2)     The Good Ones Are All Dead

3)     You Should Have Got Here Sooner

4)     Red Knight, White Knight

5)     The Most Promising Girl Of Her Year

6)     The Little Bits & Pieces Of Love

7)     Let’s Kill Everybody

8)     Heir Appointment

9)     Death Of A Friend

10)  The Worst Soldier I Ever Saw

11)  Nice People Die At Home

12)  Death Of A Hunter

 

 

Similar to the also great and recently found remaining episodes of Adam Adamant Lives! (reviewed elsewhere on this site), black and white shows are missing due to negligence and possibly because the owners thought there was no future for them in a color TV world; a huge mistake.  For the record, missing Callan shows are about even here include Goodbye, Nobby Clarke, The Death Of Robert E. Lee, Goodness Burns Too Bright, But He’s A Lord, Mr. Callan, You’re Under Starter’s Orders, Land Of Light & Peace, Blackmailers Should Be Discouraged, Jack-On-Top, Once A Big Man, Always A Big Man and The Running Dog.  We hope they turn up some time and at least their teleplays get published somewhere.  Too bad they are not here as PDFs on one of the four DVDs in this set.

 

There were also some great guest stars, some of which Spy fans will especially recognize, including David Lander, Derek Newark, George Ghent, Duncan Lamont, David Hargreaves, Raymond Young, Clifford Rose, Elizabeth Bell, Joan Crane, Vladek Sheybal, Laurence Hardy, Kenneth Gilbert, Henry Knowles, Peter Welch, Stanley McGeagh, John Wentworth, Peter Cellier, Geoffrey Cheshire, David Leland, Ann Lynn, Rex Robinson, Barry Stanton, Jerome Willis, Allan Cuthbertson, Saeed Jaffrey, John Tessa Wyatt, Frederick Jaeger, Kenneth Benda, Roger Bizley, Harry Towb, Barbara Leigh-Hunt, John Flannigan, Terry Scully, Michael Meacham, Derek Waring and Norman Wooland.  Many are actors who are not seen enough today and seeing them again here just adds to the authenticity of the show.

 

The 1.33 X 1 image was shot as noted (and by the title of this set) in black and white PAL videotape with hardly any filmed footage, though these copies are usually 16mm back-up copies that survived.  The Worst Soldier I Ever Saw was actually found as complete, but unedited footage, so Fremantle was able to re-edit it back into its original narrative, broadcast order, saving another show.  That can look a little rougher with aliasing and staircasing, but these look as good as can be expected, while the Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is consistent and at a healthy volume throughout, though it has its flaws and can show its age like the video.

 

There are no extras, unfortunately, but the color shows are out in the U.S. as noted and Network will follow up with their own set of those shows soon.

 

 

As noted above, you can order this DVD import set exclusively from Network U.K. at:

 

http://www.networkdvd.net/

 

or

 

www.networkdvd.co.uk

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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